Suffer Me Not – The Bible, Trials, and Suffering

Posted: August 21, 2010 by pastorerichann in Apologetics, Bible Studies / Helps, Christian History, PastorEricHann, Philosophy
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(*Note: It’s rare that I would lead a Bible Study based purely on notes from my personal, daily devotional readings – but in a recent Sunday class I decided to do just that. What is presented here is by no means a comprehensive study on this subject from the Bible. In fact, there are numerous obvious passages which could also be presented here, including verses like John 16:33 “in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” and countless famous Psalms. This is merely a beginning database of somewhat random passages with a few introductory thoughts, and then some scribbled concluding thoughts for consideration. Many of these verses and passages are ones I was personally drawn to in reading through the entire Bible in my times of daily devotion. This is not the kind of study I would attempt to lead someone through who was in the middle of an immediate crisis – see Romans 12:15 – but when the “smoke clears” and the pain lingers, I see the truths here as shots of realism from the Christian scriptures. Since Lee Strobel in his book and video “The Case For Faith” stated the number one issue skeptics have with belief in God is the subject of “suffering” – and since many Christians seem to have a skewed perception about what the Bible really says on the subject, I pray the following Bible snapshots will minister to some readers who are currently struggling in these areas – Pastor Eric Hann)

A Beginning Data-Base on Trials and Suffering           

Romans 8:18-23; 2 Cor. 5:1-2

or… “Does the Bible Really Give us a Faith-Driven, Earthly, Health, Wealth, and ‘Fairness’ Guarantee?”

Joseph (see Gen. 37 – 50): I’ve always considered this a fascinating story. It’s interesting that even though Joseph eventualy rose up to 2nd in command in Egypt, because of his forgiveness there really never was any “just” retribution served against his brothers (You might remember that little thing about them attempting to murder him and then selling him into slavery).

Elijah (see I Kings 19:4-18): Could an iconic prophet ever get… down?

David (see Psalm 6:6-7 and Psalm 31:9-15)

Ahijah: A faithful prophet of God – in his old age was going blind (see I Kings 14:4)

Asa: A Southern Kingdom King loyal to God – in his old age was “diseased in his feet” (see: I Kings 15:23)

Naboth: A Godly man of integrity – falsely accused by Jezebel’s cronies of blasphemy, and then put to death because of it (see I Kings 21:8-14). In this instance, there were some resulting consequences.

Jeremiah: A prophet of high regard who spent forty years preaching faithfully – and suffering (Jer. 38:6; Jer. 9:1; 20:7-18; 29:7, remember the famous vs. 11 which is so commonly printed on coffee cups and t-shirts is written in the context of 70 years of captivity in Babylon. If you don’t think an iconic prophet ever gets “down” read Jeremiah 20:18 along with the whole book of Lamentations. Do remember to include 3:14-24)

Job: Enough said. An item of note is that even after Job’s possessions are restored at the end of the book, his loved ones who died, aren’t – at least not during his earthly life.

Habakkuk’s conclusion: (see Hab.3:17-19)

Jesus’ passion – suffering (see Matt. 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 17019). Yeah, that little experience known as the cross event. Just think, if we were all exactly like Jesus, we’d all… (see John 15:20)

A little note: After Jesus’ ascension, all of the disciples were martyred or severely persecuted – beginning with James (Acts 12:2). If you’re a true disciple of Jesus, what is it that you’re expecting? (see 2 Tim. 3:12)

Stephen: A Christian evangelist put to death by stoning (see Acts 7:54-60). Think about it: “They’ll stone you when you’re preaching for the Lord. They’ll stone you even if they don’t get bored… (so) you don’t have to feel so all alone… “)

Peter’s input on sufferings (see I Peter 4:12-19)

Paul (see Acts 9:15-16; Acts 16:22-25; Acts 20:22-24; 2 Cor.1:3-10; 2 Cor.12:7-10; Philippians 1:12; Philippians 2:16-18; Philippians 4:11-13). A tid-bit of note: One of Paul’s co-workers was unable to travel with Paul at a certain juncture because he was “sick” (see 2 Timothy 4:20).

Hebrews 11:30-40 (Recorded in the “hall of faith,” some are delivered physically/circumstantially – some aren’t. Note vs. 37 – there must be nothing quite like being “sawn in two“)

A sprinkling of examples from Christian history: Foxes Book of Martyrs (circa 1563) Summary: Faithful Christian servants die in horrific ways; D.L. Moody (1837-1899): Faithful Christian leader, preacher, evangelist, philanthropist, a key component of the “3rd Great Awakening” – in the 1871 Chicago fire fled with his family while his newly erected church building and home burned to the ground. He also lost two grandchildren at very young ages (Dwight at age one of spiral meningitis, and Irene, at age four, due to Pneumonia). Moody himself died at the age of 62 with heart problems.  Horatio Spafford (1828 – 1888): Christian friend of DL Moody, author of the hymn “It Is Well” – also lost all his possessions in the 1871 Chicago Fire and in 1873 lost all four of his daughters in a ship accident. Later, in 1880, their only son died at the age of 4 to Pneumonia. In 1888, Spafford himself died in Jerusalem of Malaria at the age of 60.  Corrie Ten Boom (1892 – 1983): Faithful Dutch Christian who suffered at hands of Nazi Germany for attempting to save the lives of those fleeing from Nazi opprression. She watched two family members die in German concentration camps; The list could go on, including Richard Wurmbrand; Ecuadorian missionaries  Jim Elliot and friends; Joni Eareckson Tada – etc, etc, ad-infinitum.

So what can Christians make of all this? Here are a few notes on what the Bible reveals:

Sometimes sufferings are allowed for disciplinary (or chastening/refining) reasons (I Cor. 11:29-30; Hebrews 12:5-11); Sometimes it has nothing to do with discipline (John 9:1-3); Sometimes we find out why the sufferings have been allowed (Genesis 50:20; Philippians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 2 Cor. 12:7-10); Other times we don’t (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Isaiah 55:8-9; I Corinthians 13:9, 12); Sometimes it’s only God, Himself that’s revealed (Job 42:1-6)

What are some things Christians should do when facing trials and suffering in their own lives? The Bible tells us to…

“…not think it strange” when we face trials (I Peter 4:12)…take everything up in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7); … also have others pray – including prayer for healing – because there are times when God heals and changes other circumstances as well (James 4:2; James 5:13-18; John 15:7); …pray for wisdom (James 1:2-8);…examine our Christian walks and confess / repent of all known sin (I Peter 4:15-16; I Cor. 11:31-32; James 4:3); “…consider Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-4; Matt. 26:38-42; Matt. 27:26-46; Acts 22:8); …Know that Christ sympathizes with us in our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:14-16); …come unto Jesus (trust Him as Savior if you haven’t!) and learn from Him (Matt. 11: 28-30); … be strengthened “according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:28); …acknowledge the abiding Helper (the Holy Spirit) who is with us (John 14:15-18); … recognize that as Christians God gives us the ability to find a “way out” from temptation and “bear” whatever comes our way (I Corinthians 10:13); …trust in God’s providence that He’s working even if it doesn’t seem like it (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28;37-39; I Peter 4:19); …rest our hope fully/patiently in Christ as the anchor for our souls, and for the promised final justice, healing, and understanding (Romans 8:18; I Peter 1:13; Hebrews 6:15,19; Romans 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Revelation 21:4; I Cor. 13:12)… acknowledge that when our flesh is weak we can experience even more spiritual strength (2 Cor. 12:7-10) … affirm that when the “outward” person is decaying, the “inward” Christian person is being “renewed” day by day (2 Cor. 4:16)…  “count it joy” knowing the testing of our faith is producing something in our lives (James 1:2-4)… remember that whatever afflictions are faced in this lifetime, they are both “light” and “short” compared to the Christian’s future “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Romans 8:18) … “rejoice” looking forward to the future glory revealed (I Peter 4:13); …use the experience of our own sufferings to help comfort and alleviate the sufferings of others – so that others might know God, His comfort, and Jesus Christ as Savior through our witness and ministry to them (2 Cor. 1:3-7); …seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness no matter what we’re facing (Matthew 6:33-34); …seek to magnify Christ in the midst of all things – even death(Philippians 1:20-21).

A Beginning Database of Questions to Contemplate Concerning the “Justice” of God for Allowing Suffering:

“Since suffering/evil exists – there “can’t be a God” – so I don’t believe in any “God.” First off, does simple theism require that this “god” be “moral” – or completely moral? Is there any room within general revelation principles for at least a concept of an immoral, unjust “god”- type of being? Just a thought.

“Since suffering/evil exists – I can’t believe in the God Christians claim to believe in”(with attributes describing God as… all-powerful; all-loving – etc)

Without any framework of theism (etc) how are you defining “evil,” and on what basis? How is “love” defined, and on what basis? Why even pose the question on moral grounds if there is no meta-ethical grounding for morality – love / evil / good / bad? (Example: If we can’t adequately define “love” – how can we dogmatically declare God to be unloving?)

When complaining that God isn’t “just” – what sort of justice are we asking for – Egalitarian Justice? (All parties “equalized”) Distributive Justice? (What we deserve?). Do we really want what we truly deserve? Why is God required to “equalize” everyone and all things according to our understanding?

More Questions: What is life? What is death? Consider…

If no human beings had ever lived longer than 16 years, would this “short” life “allowed/caused” by God be considered “evil/wrong” on God’s part? If every person in history lived to be exactly 70 years old at their time of death, wouldn’t one person dying at the age of 69 be considered “unloving/unjust/immoral” by skeptics/critics of God? If everyone lived to be 300 years of age, and a couple of people died at the age of 70, wouldn’t that be used by skeptics/critics as a complaint that God is unloving/unjust/immoral? Does God being “all-loving” and “all powerful” require God to be perfectly – materially/physically – egalitarian with all people all the time? Are there any deeper issues to consider?

If we’re all “terminal,” is the problem of “death” merely an issue of “length of life” before death – or are there deeper issues? (John 11:25-27; I Cor. 15:54-58)

Is a long, “meaningless” physical life really preferable to a short, meaningful life?

(Ecclesiastes 4:1-2; 6:3-4; Matthew 6:25-33; Matthew 16:25-27; Acts 20:24; Philippians 1:20-21)

What can be gleaned about “meaning” even from Victor Frankl, let alone Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the life of Corrie Ten Boom, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, or an old friend Stephen Ruff.

What’s the philosophically consistent outcome of a “no god” worldview?

Consider the philosophical worldviews of… Dostoevsky (his characters playing out atheism consistently), Nietzsche, Stalin, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Roger Waters, Kurt Cobain, the O’Hares. Question: Was Hitler morally “wrong” (?) Why?

May God’s grace and strength be known to you in all your present and future times of need.

-Pastor Eric Hann

For Further Reading: Corrie Ten Boom “The Hiding Place”; C.S. Lewis “The Problem of Pain”; Ravi Zacharias “Can Man Live Without God”; Lee Strobel “The Case for Faith

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